My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Daily Archives: April 20, 2018

Classic Rewind: Janie Fricke – ‘Down To My Last Broken Heart’

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Album Review: Ashley McBryde – ‘Girl Goin’ Nowhere’

Arkansas-born singer-songwriter Ashley McBryde emerged last year with her impressive Warner Brothers single ‘Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega’. This well written song about finding relief from a hard life was inspired by the co-writer’s real life story of meeting his future spouse. There is an optimistic mood which is counterpointed by a detailed and realistic picture of small town America. It is a really good song, well suing by Ashley. The only complaint I have is with slightly intrusive production. Jay Joyce, best known for his work with Eric Church (who helped to bring Ashley to the fore, and to whom she is being compared), is the guilty party here, and his rock background dominates on Ashley’s new album.

The most effective tracks are the quitter, more reflective ones (like ‘Dahlonega’). The title track is a delicate acoustic song about the struggles of making it as a musician and defying those who tried to discourage her early on and now pretend they always supported her:

“Don’t waste your life behind that guitar
You may get gone, but you won’t get far
You’re not the first
You won’t be the last
And you can tell us all about it
When you come crawling back”

Then the lights come up
And I hear the band
And where they said I’d never be
Is exactly where I am
I hear the crowd
I look around
And I can’t find one empty chair
Not bad for a girl goin’ nowhere

I need to thank my daddy
For that first set of strings
And all those folks who swore I’d never be anything

To the end, this remains understated and thoughtful, as does ‘Andy (I Can’t Live Without You)’. This is a realistic love song about a man who has his fair share of imperfections and irritating behaviour, but is still the love of her life. Apparently it is actually about Ashley’s male best friend and room mate rather than a romantic interest as such, but it feels more like a marriage.

You drink my whiskey without askin’
You put your boots up on my couch
It drives me crazy to remind you
More than once to take the garbage out
You used my good towels on the dog
That’s the only thing I’ve asked you not to do
Most days I’d love to lock you out
I can’t live without you

The kitchen table ain’t for business
I wish you’d put the bills where they go
I guess you’d need an invitation to the backyard
To see that it needs mowin’
You leave your whiskers in the sink
And I’ve told you ’til I’m black and blue
You never worry what our neighbors think
I can’t live without you

‘Cause you’ve got my back
Even when I’m wrong
You’re the only one who knows me and my heart can’t get along
I got reasons to cry and can’t tell you which one
But you don’t ask no questions
You just hold me ’til I’m done
And when I’m lookin’ to fight
You flat refuse
I can’t live without you

You’re always voicin’ your opinion
You play your guitar way too loud
And God, I reckon it would kill you
To lift a finger and help me clean this house
You know your jokes ain’t all that funny
But I’ll keep on laughin’ if you want me to
Nobody understands why I love you
I can’t live without you

A very stripped down arrangement allows the song to shine.

These three tracks are all fantastic and strongly recommended by me.

Elsewhere the sound is more rock-influenced. ‘Radioland’ is a catchy country rock ode to the joys of music encountered as a child. ‘The Jacket’ is a very nice mid-paced tribute to a beloved old article of clothing symbolic of Ashley’s father’s life.

‘American Scandal’ is a sultry rock ballad comparing a relationship to an illicit one (specifically President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe); I didn’t particularly like this lyrically, although it was well sung; and the production was heavy handed. It leads into the bluesy soulful ‘Southern Babylon’, again a good song but not to my taste, with hushed vocals and supernatural-inspired lyrics.

‘Living Next To Leroy’ is an excellent song about high school friends whose lives are destroyed by crystal meth “on the dark side of the country” – very powerful lyrics but spoiled by the heavy electric guitar – although perhaps its very dissonance is making a point.

‘El Dorado’ on the other hand is too loud and busy from the start, although there is an engaging lyric about life on the road. ‘Home Sweet Highway’, abut being on the way home is a bit more restrained and all the better for it. ‘Tired Of Being Happy’ is a pretty good song about an encounter with a recently married ex, and offering him a way out, once more rather smothered by the backings.

Ashley McBryde is an extremely talented artist with very strong songwriting skills. However some of the arrangements on this record don’t work for me. Those who do like more rock influences in the country should find much to love in this album, and I think it’s worth checking out even if that doesn’t apply.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Dawn Sears – ‘What A Woman Wants To Hear’

Dawn Sears’ debut album on Warner Brothers Records was released in 1991. Barry Beckett acted as producer. ‘San Antone’, her very first single for Warner Brothers, having failed to chart the previous year, it was removed from consideration for the album, but if you want to hear this very retro Patsy Cline style ballad, you can check it out on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIAyvGo_-DQ

However, the label retained the second single, although it too had made no chart impact. ‘Till You Come Back To Me’ was another beautifully sung slow ballad, but slightly more contemporary in style, and was written by Mike Reid and Troy Seals. Dawn’s vocals soar on this big ballad.

Dawn showed she was as good with up-tempo material with a committed cover of Highway 101’s ‘Good Goodbye’ (a track on that band’s debut album a few years earlier and co-written by Paulette Carlson). Dawn’s version uses the same arrangement as the original, but she delivers the attitude believably. Warner Brothers’ last unsuccessful attempt at getting Dawn on the radio came with ‘Tell Me I’m Crazy’, another Mike Reid tune (co-written this time with Rory Michael Bourke). This sophisticated loungy ballad is exquisitely performed, and was later covered in very similar style by Shelby Lynne.

‘Odds And Ends (Bits And Pieces)’ had most recently been recorded by Lynne on her own 1989 debut album, but was an older classic, written by Harlan Howard. It is another slow paced ballad which was ideally suited to both artists’ vocal ability.

A number of the other tracks were either covers or were later picked up by other artists. The classic Hank Williams hit is treated very authentically and highly enjoyable. ‘He’s In Dallas’ was recorded by Reba McEntire on her 1991 album For My Broken Heart, and was later covered by fellow Spotlight Artist Linda Davis. A mournful ballad about the failure of a relationship and the collapse off all the protagonist’s dreams for her future, as she returns home to her mother in Minnesota, disconsolate. Dawn’s vocal is exceptional.

The title track (coincidentally a song co-written by Davis) is another excellent ballad yearning to be treated well, which should have been a big hit for someone. This is another of the highlights on this album. ‘Old Fashioned Broken Heart’ is a great traditional country heartbreak ballad written by Donny Kees and Terri Sharp, is superb, and one of my favorite tracks here, assisted by some nice fiddle.

She delivers up some western swing on the assertive ‘No More Tears’, and sultry blues on ‘Could Be The Mississippi’, showing her range.

This was a very good album which slipped beneath the radar.

Grade: A-